Famous Witches, Wiccans and Pagans
Gerald Gardner was one of the first to take witchcraft ‘out of the broom closet’. Since then, many witches have followed in his footsteps by publishing books and discussing publicly the beliefs, rituals and practices of Wicca. These famous witches and pagans helped to bring Wicca out of obscurity, and allowed mainstream culture to gain insight into this secretive and selective group.
Gerald Gardner is known as the ‘father of modern Wicca’. A British public servant, he spent much of his time abroad and was influenced by a variety of cultures and esoteric teachings. He claimed to have been initiated into a coven of witches which had survived since antiquity, and fearful that the tradition would die out, he decided to make the practices public. The novel High Magic’s Aid was published in 1949, and once the witchcraft laws were repealed in England in 1951, he published Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft. These books, and Gardner’s flair for publicity, created a sect of witchcraft which is known as the Gardnerian tradition. Gardner worked closely with occultist Aleister Crowley, as well as initiating Doreen Valiente and Raymond Buckland into the Craft.
Initiated into Wicca by Gerald Gardner himself, Doreen Valiente is thought to have been instrumental in forming the Gardnerian tradition of witchcraft. She is credited with writing the Charge of the Goddess, which is used in many traditions of Wicca, as well as penning much of Gardner’s original Book of Shadows. She wrote Witchcraft for Tomorrow, which discusses the historical context of various rituals and practices used in Wicca today.
A student of Gerald Gardner, Raymond Buckland was initiated into the Gardnerian tradition in 1963 and is credited with bringing Gardnerian Wicca to America. Buckland went on to found the Seax-Wicca tradition based on the Saxon and Norse cultures, focusing on the deities Woden and Freya. His ‘big blue book’, The Complete Book of Witchcraft, was hugely popular and influential due to its eclectic flavour and easy to use workbook structure.
Alex Sanders was an initiated witch and ceremonial magician who founded the Alexandrian tradition of Wicca in the 1960s. While very similar to Gardnerian Wicca, the Alexandrian tradition focused more on ceremonial magic. Alex Sanders, who called himself the ‘King of the Witches’, brought his tradition to America and initiated both Janet and Stewart Farrar.
Janet and Stewart Farrar
Janet and Stewart Farrar were both initiated into the coven of Alex Sanders in 1970, later moving on to form their own Alexandrian coven. They wrote The Witches’ Bible, a combination of earlier books Eight Sabbats for Witches and The Witches Way. Their books have been described as a mix of Gardnerian and Celtic traditions and are popular with British Traditional witches.
Starhawk (Miriam Simos) is an environmental activist and ecofeminist. She published The Spiral Dance in 1979, the same year as Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, which discusses the divine feminine and is thought to have sparked the Goddess movement in America. Starhawk received training in the Feri tradition of witchcraft and later co-founded the Reclaiming tradition, which mixed spirituality and magic with political activism.
Scott Cunningham was one of the first authors to write specifically for the eclectic solitary witch, which he did so in popular books such as Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner and Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Both books are a staple of ‘Wicca 101’ reading lists, introducing neophytes to Wicca, witchcraft and magic. Scott Cunningham also wrote several other popular books such as The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic, and Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wicca and Witchcraft (3rd Ed) by D. Zimmermann and K. Gleason (2006)
Wicca For Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy and Practice by Thea Sabin (2006)
PaganWiccan About.com – Top 10 Authors You Need To Read http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/wiccanpaganhistory/tp/authors.htm
PaganWiccan About.com – Thirteen Books Every Wiccan Should Read